Questions with...

Questions with: Michael Coates

This is the first of a series of “interviews” with COT people – including entrants, crews and officials. In this post we will meet Michael Coates who was the first entrant to put in a nomination for the 2016 COT. Michael is from Port Lincoln in South Australia and is a happy, familiar face on the COT. He’s competed in two COTs as well as the Red Centre to Gold Coast.

What car will you be running in the 2016 COT? What is special; what is its history; where is it at?
The mighty P76 of course – this time anticipating I will have both front and rear suspension, a car that will not break in half, brakes and steering. A first in 6 events. This is car 2 as no 1 died of acute stress after Red Centre to Gold Coast. We were class winners, but had the back doors welded solid and more body cracks than the LA earth quake. But I suppose that’s not so bad when you consider it had done the 95 and 98 Round Australias, 2001 Australian Safari Alice to Darwin – class win, and the Red Centre to Gold Coast. No 2 now has MCA suspension front and rear, power steering and new extractors… whoopee!

Michael and Justin Coates in COT 2014. This shot from the Mt Tilga stage on day 2.

Michael and Justin Coates in COT 2014. This shot from the Mt Tilga stage on day 2.

Who will be in your team? Who is your co-driver, team manager or service crew? What’s your history as a team?
It’s the same team – Justin Coates is my navigator and Ian Clarke is no 1 mechanic.

You’ve competed in the COT before. What do you like about the event – what has bought you back?
These events are awesome. You get more rally km’s in a week than you get in a year of sprint events. You run on unseen station tracks unseen and you need to do it again the next day and the next and the next… An true challenge in fantastic country you would otherwise never see.

What are your expecting from the 2016 COT; what are you looking forward to?
The true outback!! Hopefully trees with white ants – and wide enough apart so a big wide beast can fit through without screen damage.

Have you been to Alice Springs before? What are you expecting or looking forward to seeing?
I have started two events from Alice and love the country. Open horizons and huge space – perfect for a big fat thing!!

Team Coates and the big P76 on Broadmeadows on day 3 of COT 2014.

Team Coates and the big P76 on Broadmeadows on day 3 of COT 2014.

Are you planning a bit of a Red Centre holiday as part of your rally? Will your partner, family or friends be joining you?
We’re not sure. But, we’re very pleased that things are planned to include partners – day excursions and non really things. My only attempt so far was a failure, with Jill chasing me from Alice to Darwin and not having a lot of fun. We have booked enough beds to make sure Jill could come and we await news as to non rally activities.

Who are your sponsors or supporters?
Tanonga Luxury Eco Lodges and Natural Oysters

What is/was your favourite rally car?

What is your most memorable rallying moment?
Finishing in the top ten in the early 90’s in a rough as guts 1964 Pug 404 in a SA sprint rally with lots of cars behind me that I would have committed felonies for.

What will you be doing to get ready for the 2016 COT?
Attempting to give up smoking – again!

Where are you, and what are you doing as you answer these questions?
Looking over the beautiful Boston Bay from the esplanade in Port Lincoln. I am doing this instead of working as the Exec Officer of the SA abalone industry or as a consultant to my old legal firm. You can tell where my heart is!

Michael and Justin Coates were class winners in COT 2014 - pictured here at the presentation with John Angove, of Angove Family Wines. Michael is on the left.

Michael and Justin were class winners in COT 2014 – pictured here at the presentation with John Angove, of Angove Family Wines. Michael is on the left.

Anything else to tell us?
Check out our websites for Tanonga and Natural Oysters!!

I should tell you why a P76 in the first place. It was $30,000 from Rexona Lever kitchen the owners of BRUT in 1995.At the time I had kids in college, I’d just bought the senior partner out of my legal firm and bought a tennis court in the eastern suburbs. I was cash strapped.

I had a dirt circuit background in Port Lincoln (held the open wheeler lap record for 7 years) and a few years sprint rally experience in Adelaide in $2000 rally cars I could drive to Court on Monday – assuming I hadn’t crashed it on the weekend. But, I was frustrated by spending days to do very little actual driving with everyone else wanting smooth roads and pace notes when I wanted rough as guts and lots of it.  Bring back the Redex  and then came the 1995 Around Aust event!!

I had no ability to fund a 1995 Around Australia and wanted to use a Pug but couldnt find a sponsor for love or money. I had just about given up, but by then had read every book ever written about marathon rallies, mainly to learn what failed on 504’s. This included the Evan Green’s “Boot full of right arms” – a fabulous story of his private entry in the 1974 twice across Sahara world cup event where the P76 was the first car to cross the Sahara and the winner of the famous Targa Florio stage in Sicily.

When doing the weekly shopping I noticed an advert “BRUT _ MEN ARE BACK”.  I recalled a photo in Evan’s book that looked like the Australian desert and the BRUT sign on the door. I thought that if they were spending in every Coles and Woolies store around Aus they were spending millions and might have some petty cash left over for a 21st anniversary of Evan’s success.

I also recalled Evan’s rave about what a good car the 76 was and although I had never driven one I tracked Evan down and got his permission to use the photo that showed the BRUT logo on his door, wrote yet another sponsor application, took a photo of my rally mate Chris Jones and me with every swimming and tennis trophy we could scrounge and a few dirt circuit genuine trophies and asked for $30,000.

Within the hour of receipt I was asked for my bank account no and started looking for a 76.

What a surprise when it was such a well suspended, well balanced, excellent motored beast. I have put up with ridicule ,been the butt of many jokes and have had a fabulous time driving what many regard as a big fat and ugly lemon.

I know better. So does Hal Moloney.

I had 2 DNF’s in the first efforts with a broken crank and a broken axle. These were followed by class win (I was the only 2 wheel drive in the Safari), class win, second in class and a class win with an engine last looked at in 1998 and no mechanical issues ever. Same gearbox , same diff , second hand tyres and same steering wheel! No shortage of other issues but a great record for an amateur with no skills and a limited budget.

As it is road registered and I live on dirt roads I also get to enjoy it going to and from work.  When getting serious before an event Farmers on the road home anticipate my return and get their deck chairs to the corner of the paddock to see if my technique has improved.

Just love it !!!  Yahoo !!


Thanks Michael – and we love having you on the COT too!